Crazy Comparison! Voigtlander 15 E Mount, Sony 16-35, Olympus 7-14!

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Crazy Comparison! Voigtlander 15 E Mount, Sony 16-35, Olympus 7-14!

Hey guys! Happy Friday! This has been a hectic week for me, so there have been fewer posts this week but have no fear, a CRAZY COMPARISON is here to kick off your weekend! Hehe. Since I have a serious combo of wide angle lenses here I figured I’s step out in my backyard this morning (while still in my Pajamas) and take a few side by side shots with these lenses.

The new Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is here, the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 has been with me since it was launched (I use this lens often for video) and the Olympus PEN-F and 7-14 happened to be in front of me as well. So why not take them out in the back and see how they stack up with some real world silly snapshots? This is not a scientific hardcore test, it is for fun.

All images are from RAW, none have any post processing and yes, I am barefoot because it’s already hot here in Phoenix, with temps already hitting triple digits earlier in the week..so no socks for me 😉

When going out my thought was that the Olympus would provide the sharpest of the images due  to the Micro 4/3 sensor which is small compared to a full frame like we have in the Sony, and we all know that ultra wides and full frame cameras are still nowhere near perfect at the edges. After this test it just solidifies my belief that Olympus and Panasonic have a great thing going with Micro 4/3. The only weaknesses it has over the mighty Sony is low light, where the Sony just kills the Olympus (or Panasonic) and for SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD, which is MUCH easier to obtain on a full frame camera. Other than that, the little PEN-F is still impressing me.

So let’s get to these silly shots..

1st Up, around 8:50 AM in the corner of my backyard. Wanted to look at the edges a bit as I was seeing the Voigtlander, upon close inspection had some soft edges. You can click on the images below to see them larger with full 100% crops. I noticed the Voigtlander underexposes a bit when using the A7RII meter (as we all do). It’s also softer in the edges than the Sony/Zeiss 16-35. The Olympus, here, IMO is the best in the corners and the overall image/color/vibrance but less res of course than the full frame Sony beast. 

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Yep, my bare feet..it’s HOT in Phoenix AZ this time of year. View at your own risk but if you want to take that dare, click the images for larger versions. Again, the Olympus, to me, did the best but also, less resolution. That Olympus 7-14 is a stunner and the best built of the three as well. 

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Let’s look at some prices of these kits:

The Sony A7RII is $3198 at Amazon.  For me, it has been well worth it as it is my #1 goto. I have a few Sony cameras, a couple of Olympus, a couple Leica and today my lens collection is quite large. I used to sell off lenses as I stopped using them, then I realized I usually regretted selling them. But the Sony A7RII is my most used camera for all of my shooting. Olympus comes next with the PEN-F and then the Leica SL. That’s my gear list as of now.

The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4 comes in at $1248 at Amazon.  So add this to the A7RII and we are looking at $4450. That’s a ton of cash for a camera and one F/4 wide angle lens, but again, this combo has given me LOADS of use for video work where I needed Auto Focus.

The Voigtlander 15 f/4.5 for E mount is $799 at CameraQuest.com – It’s much smaller than the Sony, and lighter. It is manual focus but it zooms in as soon as you turn the focus dial, making manual focus a breeze. This lens and an A7RII comes in at around $4000. Quite pricey still.

The Olympus PEN-F comes in at $1199 at Amazon.  For $2,000 less than an A7RII you will have a smaller, sleeker and just as capable camera in most light. Sure, it’s not full frame and you will suffer in low light or when you want massive bokeh blow out, but other than that these Micro 4/3 cameras are quiet stunning.

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The Olympus 7-14 is an f/2.8 lens, and in their PRO line. It is STUNNING. It comes in at $1199, same as the PEN-F.  Cost of this lens and the PEN-F? $2400, almost half of the Sony/Zeiss setup. STILL expensive when you consider most use a cel phone and a wide angle lens adapter for these types of things these days 🙂

I love them all and feel lucky to have tools to choose from these days and I feel lucky to be a camera nerd. 🙂 Today we have the best digital solutions we have ever had.

Let’s do one more comparison…

Looking at this we can see what we know, that smaller sensors can do wide angle with less issues..click them for larger. I prefer the Olympus here for tonality, and the way the image is presented. THOUGH the Olympus was the only one to flare here. 

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At the end of the day, in this world of cel phone cameras and less and less of the world interested in megabuck cameras, I feel the entire higher end digital market is going the way of the true enthusiast. There are many of us that would NEVER use our phone as our main camera just as there are many who would never buy a $4000 setup to take some snaps of their dogs or kids. Sure, I use my iPhone on occasion, when I do not have my real camera. But never have I taken an iPhone shot and said “WOW, this looks like my Leica and Noctilux”! Hehehe. I see cameras and lenses such as the ones discussed here for the ENTHUSIAST, like me. We love well made gear, we love a camera that fits our hand like a glove and we love a REAL camera that does what we want it to. So these cameras and lenses are still going strong even though I get emails daily asking me to review cel phones, yes I do.

I love them all, and they all have their strengths, like the bodies and lenses above. I still prefer my Sony 16-35 over the new Voigtlander for E mount though. The Voigtlander is underexposing on occasion, does have some slightly soft corners (as does the Zeiss) and is not as vibrant as what I get from the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 (My review of that lens is HERE). With that said, the Voigtlander is a joy to use, is smaller and lighter and less expensive. I could be happy with either for wide angle use. Then we have the little PEN and the 7-14 which I feel is giving me the best IQ for my tastes (with ultra wide – but the least resolution due to the smaller sensor)! I am going to have to start using it more 😉

What do you guys use as your wide angle solution in the 15mm range?

REFERENCE: Sony 16-35 Review, Sony A7RII Review, Olympus PEN-F Review, Olympus 7-14 Review, 1st look Voigtlander.

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43 Comments

  1. Hi Steve,

    I’m Italian (sorry if there are mistakes) and I follow your test cause they’re great and very useful.
    I would like a suggestion from you: I plan to buy a Sony a7II but I’m not sure for the lens.
    I’m interesting in IQ (but I’m not pros) and I want know if the zoom 16-35 F4 is less good in sharpness and color than prime lens 35mm F2.8 zeiss, at 35mm. In other words, if I shoot at 35mm with 16-35 f4 zoom and Zeiss 35mm F2.8, what difference can I see (besides bokeh I figured out considering difference in aperture)?
    Last, do you think the Panorama function of Sony a7II a substitute of an wide angle lens?
    (I mean, with that function I can do without wide-lens?)

    Thank you very much
    Alex

  2. Since I happen to already have a Canon EOS M, I went with Canon’s EF-M 11-22. $399, small and plenty sharp on the 18MP sensor. I may trade up eventually to gain the ability to compose with an EVF, but for now it’s a nice way to be dipping a toe in the ultra-wide waters.

  3. Steve, thanks for the comparison. One note: as you mentioned the Oly is a m4/3 sensor, so to be “fair” the lenses on the Oly should be shot 2 stops wider than on the full frame Sony to give the same effective aperture, bokeh, depth of field, etc. For example, with the lenses on the Oly set to f/2.8, the lenses on the Sony should be set to f/5.6.

    • Not true. When doing a comparison I go for LIGHT GATHERING and metering over bokeh. This is not a lens, any of them, that will deliver any kind of shallow DOF. I have proven many times on this site, over and over, that f/2.8 on Micro 4/3 is the same in regards to light gathering on full frame or APS-C. F/4 on the Oly is the same light gathering as f/4 on a Sony. I have done side by side tests to prove this, same aperture, same metering, same ISO, = same output. So when doing tests such as this, we are not testing for depth of field, of which there is no difference due to the ultra wide lenses..we are testing for IQ in general, color, distortion, etc. For this, the same aperture must be used for a fair test. If I was testing Bokeh, I would still use the same aperture to show what you get from Micro 4/3 vs what you get from full frame. Never try to match them in tests as that is a skewed test. It’s not how we would shoot them in reality.

      • Aside from your answer above concerning equivalency on bokeh, on the 100% zoom/crops in each frame, can you at least zoom the Sony & Olympus at unequal zooms so that the crop is comparable?

        As in the pool + feet pics, as far as determining resolution, do you think it’s fair to zoom the Sony in less and the Olympus in more so that your feet would be similar in size when viewed in the ‘cropped’ image? I know that’s not 100% zoom of what each lens+sensor combo would be. But, it is a ‘crazy’ comparison as you say, so why not remove the megapixel difference and compare sharpness on such a basis?

        Thanks,
        DMR

        • The way I have always compared cameras, for 8 years now, is in a real world way. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET. Zooming or blowing up the Oly crop would be UNFAIR as no one is going to shoot the Oly and upres their photos to 36MP. People will use their Oly and use the images and res that come out of the camera. If anyone is UP Sizing and blowing up all of their Oly files it is something like 0.003% of Oly shooters. A test like that would be useless and silly as it is not comparing cameras or output, it would be comparing a lower res blown up image to 36mp to a native 36mp image. Silly and useless. That makes no sense. Why would I blow up a 16MP file to 36 to see if it is sharper than a native 36MP sensor? It wouldn’t be. Anyone who tests like that is an extreme pixel peeper which has nothing to do with real photography, camera use or output of said camera. Thank you.

          • Okay, I think you may have misunderstood the basis of the question. I wasn’t saying you should up-res the Oly from 16 > 36MP, which agreeably wouldn’t be often done. However, the reverse of down-res’ing the Sony from 42 > 16MP could be done for size of printing or export file sizing/storage options. In such a case, I would image the the interpolation would provide for an enhanced Sony image at a down sampled image size equivalent to that of the Oly. Not everyone wants to save 42MP images of their toes. I just believe in a scientific approach, and to me, that means reducing as many variables as possible to determine what the differences are based upon as few of variables as possible. Resolution is one that can be ‘corrected’ for via export down-sizing. And based upon other comments, I don’t think I’m the only one with the idea.

            Testing in this manner seems, to me, applicable in such a ‘crazy’ comparison. Saying that someone is a ‘extreme pixel peeper’ and ‘has nothing to do with real photography’ is a bit ironic. Why post the 100% crops in the first place then, if not for pixel peeping purposes? Why take 3 benign photos (2 of a wall & 1 of your feet) with zoomed crops if the comparison is not in same based upon pixel comparisons? If it’s about ‘real photography’, which is subject to the photographer and the viewer, why not include more candid shots of everyday life? Or, maybe ‘real photography’ to some may be pixel peeping? I don’t think that can categorically be ignored just because it’s not of your interest (mine either by the way), but still the same question applies.

            For what it’s worth, I don’t have either of these cameras, so it doesn’t really matter to me – I was just asking the question. Your response is pretty WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET though. (Shrugs shoulders…)

          • What you see is what you get, exactly. This is what one can expect from each camera if they were to buy it or use it. That is how a comparison should be made, not with crazy hypotheticals that will never ever be used in real life. It’s how I have done them for 8 years and always will. I’m sure there are other sites doing those kind of comparisons, which again, have nothing to do with real photography. Id never shoot my Oly upsized to 36mp and I always shoot my A7RII at 36. There would never be a situation where I would upres or downres the files and I know of no one who would. People who are looking to buy a camera are interested in seeing what they will get out of the camera, as is. Thank you.

      • Just saying there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Smaller sensors produce deeper DOF at the same number f-stop compared to 35mm sensors. I think readers need to see both the equivalent effect of smaller sensors and understand what you give up when you go for smaller size and weight. I do think it matters when it comes to edge sharpness, by the way.

        • Brad, I think you’re underestimating the readership here. DOF tradeoffs with crop sensors is pretty basic knowledge.

  4. Be it early in the morning or late in the evening, your reviews are always a joyu to read! 🙂

  5. I use the Sony 16-35/4 on an A7Rii. I’m impressed with the sharpness. Even at 35 mm, the corners are sharper than I get on an M9 with a Summaron 35/2.8 or Zeiss 35/2.8 ZM. I don’t shoot extreme wide angles much, so the Sony zoom is all I need for the present. I would add that the lens is nearly parfocal when zoomed, and exhibits almost no focus breathing. A 15 or 16 is great for milky way shots, but I have no idea how to focus the 16-35 at infinity in that application. The Voigtlander 15 V3 sounds like a better choice.

  6. I wish you had added one more lens to the trio of lenses compared. That is the Rokinon 12mm f2 (super wide — also sold as Samyang, Bower & other names) lens which is reported to give exceptional results — particularly when one considers it’s price. Thanks for an interesting lens comparison.

  7. I know it is a crazy comparison, but this is a bit ludicrous. The PEN-F only has a fraction of the resolution of the A7R II. Yeah, it is more expensive, but if you need the resolution then the A7R II delivers!

    Furthermore, this $4450 figure makes no sense. If money is an issue, the A7 II is a closer match in resolution.

    A7 II: $1,498.00
    PEN F: $1,199.00
    difference: $299

    Sony Zeiss 16-35: $1,248.00
    Olympus 7-14: $1,199.00
    difference: $49

    So for $348 you can have everything in full frame? One would have to be insane to opt for this quarter sensor camera.

    • Did I not say you get much less resolution with the PEN? Yes, I did. 🙂 I shoot the PEN ALOT. It’s an amazing camera and only gives up some res, shallow DOF and high ISO to the Sony but it also gains a ton over the Sony in other areas, so it is a wash. My prints from my RII are no better than my Oly prints. Unless I am doing 60 inch prints of course.. The Oly camera meters better, is quicker, has better IS inside, has better JPEG quality, is more fun to shoot, and the B&W modes and CHrome modes are quite nice without any muss of fuss. The Sony offers ultimate resolution, a beefier body, better high ISO. There is no right and wrong. I love the A7II as well, but if given a choice between it and a PEN-F, I would take the PEN-F as I would just be happier shooting it, thus getting better shots. If it were between my RII, I’d take the A7RII as I can do low light easily with it, I can get the Bokeh I like when I want it, and have better dynamic range, though the Oly DR is quite good these days. The PEN-F is fantastic as are 98% of Oly and Pana M 4/3 lenses. So its a toss up for me, and I use them all. I own a PEN-F and a Sony A7RII and a Sony RX1RII and an E-M10II. Also an SL. Most used is A7RII, then PEN-F, then RX1RII and my Leica and 50 Lux is getting the least these days though it comes out from time to time.

      • Hi Steve! I enjoy your crazy coparisons and from this last comment I get the impression that if Olympus and Sony got in bed and birthed a camera together you would be extreamly happy! Imagine a somewhat fatter Olympys pen F with the viewfinder and sensor from Sony A7RII but most other features from Olympus Pen F, like the B&W modes and so on. Since Sony have a nice crop feature that lets you use APS-C lenses on their fullsensor bodies, the camera should be able to use all m43 lenses with a crop and with a small adapter ring (coupled of course) one could use all Sony e-lenses as well. Ah, well, it´s nice to dream isn´t it?

    • In the real world the µ43 sensor is a brilliant performer. The fact is that most imaging does not require massive resolution. Yes, we love zooming in endlessly but the only place where a viewer may notice the difference is in a large display print.

      Shallow DOF is a cliche technique that seems to captivate newbies yet is generally ignored by pros shooting the bulk of commercial work. Yet shallow DOF is achievable with smaller sensors.

      For me, in my job as a full time photographer, my FF gear does fine work but my µ43 gear makes images virtually indistinguishable from the FF kit most of the time.
      The deeper DOF means that I have far more keepers shooting wide open in low light that with my FF gear. The silence with which it makes those photos is a plus also.

      The most important thing is that it is easier and more fun to make great work with the µ43.

  8. Thanks for another fun comparison Steve.

    I have a lot of gear, but of late, when I’m willing to put down my Leica Q, I use my Olympus E-M1 with the 12-40 Pro and my Pen F with the 7-14 Pro. I couldn’t agree with Steve more about the Pen F and the 7-14. STUNNING for the money and a heck of a combination.

  9. Zeiss every time for me in the pictures above, and the two lenses I have for my Sony NEX, and the fixed 2.8 on the RX10

  10. Been shooting the 15mm Series III since it came out in M mount. Frankly, I must have gotten a good one, because I can’t use the LR 6 profile, because on my A7 and A7II, my 15mm doesn’t vignette – and the profile WAY overcorrects. Glad you like the 16-35 – for a bit more money, I added the FE 35mm/f2.8 to the 15mm, and got great wide-open performance at both ends of the zoom in a tiny travel package.

    Keeping travel kit light and flexible is a real challenge – especially if you have a preference for primes. I just got the new 50mm f1.8, and while its optical performance is pretty good, its slow AF (about 1/2 second press-till-focus is annoying. It’s a whole lot larger than my 50mm f2 Summicron-M, so I expect it won’t make my travel kit. If I can get my hands on the Duo-Tech AF M-to-E adapter, I’ll likely sell the new 50…

    Small is beautiful, Steve – and tough if you want full-frame. Glad you like the Pen-F – I’m not into small sensors, no matter how pretty and compact.

    • Have you update the firmware on your A7II to 3.10? You will not have access to PDAF using the FE 50 mm 1.8 lens unless you are running 3.10.

      I have seen varying reports on the AF performance of this lens and wonder if it is due to different firmware versions being used.

      I am also keen to give this lens a go if the AF performance is reasonable.

  11. I have used my 16-35 several times. It is a very good lens. I do get quite a compliment when I use it. The only challenge is it is big and heavy for everyday use. The Pen-F is so tempting because of its design but I don’t know if it is reasonable to spend since I already have a Sony A7II at full frame. The 28mmF2 is great and it will surely be my everyday lens in addition to the 50F18FE.

    Thanks Steve for another very useful review.

  12. The Olympus PEN F and the Olympus 9-18mm ultra wide angle zoom is my favourite combination. Very small and light so easily fits in a shoulder bag and goes with me everywhere. Delivers gorgeous results too, so what’s not to like?

    • The problem with the 9-18 is terrible corners and poor contrast. I own it and it’s the second time I’ve purchased it. At the moment, there isn’t anything quite in that price range that takes filters and is below 20mm.

      It also bleeds out incredibly easy. I also have the Pro Olympus fisheye and it is clearly- without question- better than the 9-18 defished. Better in terms of color, contrast and corner sharpness. The only thing is it doesn’t take filters and you are stuck at it’s FL.

      I’m really looking forward to seeing if the new Panny 8-18mm 2.8-F4 can deliver, but the 9-18 is a stop gap IMO.

  13. I love your down to earth reviews and comments…I like cheap compact gear so I currently use a Sony A7 (working on getting a second body)… for wide angle work I use both a voigtlander 12mm f5.6 ( version 1 ) and Voigtlander 21mm F4…I also use a modified Sony SEL16F2.8 on the A7 in Full frame mode…But for quickie grab shots I use my little NEX C3 with Olympus BCL0980 body cap lens..(with adapter of course)…And yes I love the Olympus digital Pens and the wide zooms as well… I have more than a few Minolta AF mount lenses so I’ll stick with the Sony’s for now…I have been using Voigtlander glass on and off since the film days… (The Voigtlander 15mm/Bessa L combination was less than half the price of a Nikon 14mm lens back in the day)

  14. I wish Oly would make a 8-17 f4. The 7-14 f2.8 is too big (for a m43 lens!) and can’t take a protective filter, which makes it less useful as a walk around lens. And 17 at the long end is more useful than 14 as a semi-normal focal length.

    The Oly 9-18 f4-5.6 is not wide enough and is too long when extended into use. Plus I don’t like variable aperture. And this lens is an old external design. Oly has replaced this dated design on other lenses like the 14-150 and 45-150.

    Honestly it feels like Oly has focused on the professional lens market the last couple years, who are more likely to buy and use specialist lenses like the 7-14 f2.8, the fisheye, and the 300. It feels like they’ve not put much effort lately into the enthusiast line of lenses, which are for the most part smaller primes. What’s the last we got? The 25 f1.8 was 2 years ago! I would love to see a small and sharp 8-17 f4 or UWA prime. Right now the Oly 17 f1.8 is my widest lens (but also my most often used by far).

    m43 may have a lot of lenses, but there’s a lot of duplication and an awful lot of gaps still after all these years. I’m a m43 and especially Oly fan, but sometimes my patience wears thin after watching Sony get all these goodies the past 2 years.

  15. Thank you Steve for this crazy comparison. Did you have the chance to use the new loxia 21mm Fe and batis 18 ?
    Think they are very good too.

  16. For the life of me, I can’t understand how a lens would underexpose.

    Would you say the Voigtlander underexposes because of the vignetting? Have you tried with different metering options?

  17. Years ago (it does not seem that long ago), I bought a 7-14 F4 lens and an E-3. I upgraded in for an E-5 later on. Now I am retired my budget is much different. But it seems what I saw back then is still valid. Thanks for the info.

  18. Thanks for the comparison. I personally don’t like the Oly colors as much. I prefer larger formats for wide angle lenses and use an M-mount CV15mm on my A7 but then I don’t usually shoot ultra wide either!

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